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Site feature: ClustrMap

Thursday, June 29, 2006
So never being one NOT to steal a great idea (thanks, Laura!) I've added a ClustrMap to my Site Information area on the sidebar. So far there's nothing, of course, because it takes a while to update. But eventually it'll give me a graphical representation of where people are looking at me from. (Here's a hint: one in China, one in Texas, and a couple in Portland. Anyone else is a statistical anomaly.)

So let's see how it grows! It'll be fun to watch, and the few of you who read this and AREN'T Laura can add this to your blog/myspace page.) So far it's free (for a viewer count like mine) and it doesn't seem to hurt anything...

Keep on truckin'

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
In the news this week is the golden anniversary of the Federal Interstate System, created oh-so-long-ago by President Eisenhower.

Most of my daily driving is along State Routes and US Highways, but I can certainly appreciate the interstate system. For instance, it's a LOT faster getting from San Francisco to Portland via the interstate versus Highway 101 (trust me, I've done it.)

But the interstate system has brought some interesting changes to our landscape over the last 50 years. The ubiquity of fast food restaurants and chain gas stations - available at every exit for your convenience - certainly profited from the interstate highway system. The auto industry profited as well, as cheap travel and the open road became more and more convenient. Additionally, interstate freeways allowed for larger urban areas (including suburbs) because poeple could commute farther faster. And finally, much like the railroads in the 19th century, it profited some communities while hurting others.

So let me say this: Happy Birthday, Federal Interstate Highway system. Thank you for years of cross-country driving, commerce, traffic jams, road trips, and highway fatalities. It's been a long trip and we hope you're around for another 50, at least!

Weather Report

Monday, June 26, 2006
Yes, folks, it's damn hot outside. Monday morning at 8:45 and it already feels like it's 80 degrees, which isn't pleasant. It's supposed to top 100 degrees today, and if it didn't yesterday it sure felt like it.

Yesterday was nicely spent, though, beating the heat. We went to Vancouver Lake (just west of Vancouver) and went swimming, sat in the shade, read, picniced (is that a word), napped... all the fun things to do at a lake on a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon.

Of course, since I'm pasty-white it also means that I burned. Not badly, thank God, but my shoulders are a little red and my calves are very sensitive to touch. It'll fade soon enough, fortunately, but the pain persists and reminds me that not wearing even a minimal amount of sunscreen was a DUMB THING TO DO.

Today I get to work in my air-conditioned office but every time I go outside (and I do, from time to time) I'm reminded of how oppressive the heat can be. Oh well... it only happens around here for a couple weeks a year.

Privacy Concerns

Friday, June 23, 2006
So in the news today is word that the treasury department is searching through banking records for financial transactions related to terrorism. Now this concerns me, of course, but what I find particularly interesting is that I'm not THAT bothered. Not nearly as much as when I find out the government is trolling through our phone records. Nonetheless, what also troubles me is Treasury Secretary John Snow's attitude:
"Public dissemination of our sources and methods of fighting terrorists not only harms national security, but also degrades the government's efforts to prevent terrorist activity in the future"
Given that I don't trust the government at ALL at this point (mainly because I believe in civil liberties and civil rights) you're forgive me for being offended by this attitude. The idea of "we know better and it's in your best interest anyway, so shut up" just rubs me the wrong way and I've been seeing it a lot lately. For instance, consider the NSA wiretapping case. As reported by the New York Times, the government is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the NSA concerning its illegal wiretapping because the evidence we need to demonstrate to you that it lawful cannot be disclosed without that process itself causing grave harm to United States national security."

How have we as a nation come to the point where any of us can think that it's acceptable for the government to be spying on its own citizens, saying it's for our own good, and telling us we can't ask questions about it? I'm appalled, really. You should be, too.

Timepieces

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
It's a very sad day for me. My watch (very similar to this one) broke yesterday, so I'm now walking around with a naked wrist, feeling vulnerable. Anyone who knows me should realize that I have this crazy time obsession (or maybe just a clock obsession, since I'm not that punctual any more) and it should come as no surprise about how I feel without my watch.

So I'm torn. Do I see if this watch can be repaired or do I get a new one (spending is better than mending, kids!) I would love to have this nerd-watch for things like hiking, but I'm not sure it would be practical on a day-to-day basis. I LOVE analog watches, but certain digital watches have GPS features that I would love to use when I run. Decisions, decisions.

Father's Day

Monday, June 19, 2006
So, in an annual tradition, my dad and I went hiking for Father's Day. He and I have spent much wonderful time in the past several years hiking together, though he hikes alone a lot more than I do. This year we visited Wahkeena Falls and Angel's Rest in the Columbia River Gorge. (The trails can be seen in this PDF map here.)

We started off by parking at the base of Angel's Rest (right off the Bridal Veil exit of I-84). We then hoofed it along the Historic Columbia River Highway (no shoulder on that road to speak of) over to the Wahkeena Falls trailhead. Then we climbed up the gorge alongside Wahkeena and Fairy Falls, which was absolutely spectacular. Once at the top (about 1400 feet of elevation) we followed trail #420 along the top of the gorge wall over to Angel's rest (hitting an elevation of about 1800 feet.) Please note: While the sign at the top of Wahkeena Falls indicates that it's 2.5 miles to Angel's rest, it took us almost an hour and a half to walk that. We aren't THAT slow, I'm pretty sure that damn sign is wrong.

Anyway, we took a break at Angel's Rest and enjoyed the fine view while munching on sandwiches. Then we walked 2.3 miles downhill (took us closer to 50 minutes on this part) to the car and drove home, tired. All told the hike was at least 9 miles and took us about three and a half hours - great quality time with my dad!

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Friday, June 16, 2006
In the news today has been the passage by the House of Representatives tying the war in Iraq to the "War or Terror[ism]". I find this to be a rather interesting resolution because - in my mind - Iraq is more a part of our global anti-terrorism crusade since we invaded than it was before. Saddam may have peripherally supported terrorism during his reign but - at least by the amount of news articles that come across my desk - terrorism's link to Iraq has increased significantly since we invaded.

One quote from the article linked to above:
Republicans likely will use Democratic "no" votes to claim that their opponents don't support U.S. troops.
If you look back at posts I've written in the past, it's the same spin game over and over. Does no one learn? Hopefuly, the American public will be smart enough (yeah, right) to realize that NOT supporting a resolution tying our anti-terrorism war to our war in Iraq (and, incidentally, giving a solid "good job" to our troops) is NOT tantamount to not supporting our troops. Virtually every American hopes that our soldiers will remain safe, that they'll come home early, and that they'll come home in one live piece. However, most don't seem to think that this war is a good idea.

But the whole point of this post revolves around a 2004 article (published here) that shows that terrorsim related deaths have actually increased since we started taking a more active role in fighting it. So I maintain that while some in Congress think this resolution is a good idea, I personally think that perhaps that link is largely because we invaded.

Addendum: In searching the web for articles for my little write-up, I came across this website: Veterans Against the Iraq War. The top of their webpage proclaims "Support the troops, oppose the policy". Perhaps they "get it"?

Kentucky Fried Chicken

Tuesday, June 13, 2006
So over at CNN I found this news article: "Suit: KFC is finger-lickin' bad for you". Huh?

Apparently a group is suing Kentucky Fried Chicken because their food is unhealthy and they either want KFC to change the recipe or notify customers before every transaction how bad the food is for you.
[KFC] recklessly puts its customers at risk of a Kentucky Fried Coronary.

Okay, NEWS FLASH. It's Kentucky Fried Chicken. Besides the fact that Kentucky is NOT the healthiest state in the union, it's fried chicken. (Notice the bold, italics, and the underline?) I don't go to KFC because I'm looking for something high in fiber, iron, and calcium... I go (very rarely, of course) because it's delightfully tasty.

But let's all put personal responsibility aside and place the burden on KFC to make healthier food. After all, in our controlled economy with no fast-food competition it's only fair to demand it, right? It's not like we could just eat anywhere else...

Farewell

Last night I sold my Triumph Sprint ST to a guy I hope is going to love it like I did. What a fantastic motorcycle.

It was heart-wrenching to watch it ride up the street and not be on it, to know that I won't be enjoying more adventures on it. And while I believe it's going to a good home, I always thought it had a good home with me.

Sigh.

Vancouver, WA: Watch out for the assholes

Monday, June 12, 2006
I'd like to issue a whole-hearted "Thank you!" to the Vancouver, WA assholes who decided to egg my car this weekend. I'm sure the fact that I work really hard to pay for it, I'm trying to sell it (for a good cause), and you're intentionally (and permanently) damaging someone else's property is of no concern to you; you probably just enjoyed "letting loose." Well, thank you for taking out your thrills on my automobile! I truly appreciate washing my car for a second time in 12 hours, admiring the impact mark you made in the paint, and picking egg shell bits off that had almost baked on to the car. You made my day.

Movie Review: Peaceful Warrior

Saturday, June 10, 2006
We went and saw Peaceful Warrior last night downtown. The movie is about a college gymnast and his drive for success - until he meets a mysterious service station man who starts showing him how to change his mind.

The movie was very well done. The camerawork was stunning, as were the actual gymnastics that we see. There were a couple things that bothered me, though. First, the "training" done by "Socrates" (the only name we ever get for Nick Nolte's character) is done in a frustrating uncommunicative fashion. The other thing is that the main character rides a motorcycle, doesn't wear gloves, and almost never has to unstrap his helmet to take it off. Both are movie stereotypes, though, and don't dramatically tarnish the film.

Aside from those small issues the movie was enjoyable. The acting was solid, the gymnastics were incredible to watch, and some of the life lessons were very valid. One of the main points of the moive was that, in the world around us, "there's never nothing going on." It was interesting to watch the main character learn that, and the audience was brought along quite nicely.

The final word on Peaceful Warrior: Very worth seeing.

Another peeve

Friday, June 09, 2006
I'd like to take a moment to mention another peeve of mine: People who don't identify themselves on the phone.

I guess in this day and age of prolific caller-ID it may be natural to assume that the person who picks up the phone knows who you are by the sound of your voice. But let me tell you this: when all I see is a phone number, and I don't talk to you on a daily basis, PLEASE DON'T ASSUME I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

Case in point: today at work I got a call from a coworker I talk to once every couple of weeks. Caller ID didn't show his name, just his phone number. He just started talking, saying something like "Hey Burton, blah blah blah" without identifying himself (or pausing) so I was forced to deduce who he was by what he was talking about. How hard is it to say "Hey, Burton, it's [insert name here] and..." I've been mocked before for consistently identifying myself but it makes communication so much easier! Grrr....

The "Genuine Advantage"

Thursday, June 08, 2006
So I found this article today while I was cruising over on Slashdot. It talks about the Windows Genuine Advantage program and a little-known "call-home" feature that Microsoft sneaked in there.

According to the director for that particular program, David Lazar, this quick, unauthorized call back to Microsoft reporting on your computer is a "safety measure" because "the company was worried that it might have an unforeseen emergency that would require the program to terminate quickly". If that's not the weakest excuse ever, I don't know what is.

Another gem from the article is this one"
Lazar said that so far, about 60 percent of users who were offered the piracy check decided to install it.
I don't know what spin-control planet he's living on, but to download certain updates or tools I've NEEDED I've had to download the check. It wasn't offered as an option; it was offered as a mandatory add-on to certain tools I've NEEDED to work with Microsoft operating systems.

I really think Microsoft has the wronog idea here. Now, you may say argue that everything I say is coming from a "Mac" guy, but remember I do this professionally, kids. Check out another interview with David Lazar that was published in BetaNews. Here's my favorite paragraph:
What we have seen in terms of participation has amazed us, and that is that our opt-in rate has been above 56% - at times as high 60%. And for certain downloads, specifically the Windows AntiSpyware, we have seen opt-in rates as high as 70%, which tells us that customers are really interested in knowing if they have genuine software and to see if they will get special benefits from having this genuine software relationship with Microsoft.
Now let's ignore the bullshit "opt-in" for a moment and examine this statement. Remember that Windows has a 90% install base around the world (or something like that) and it's the choice of most businesses and many individuals. I question the fact that 70% of consumers opt-in specifically to the Windows Genuine Advantage. And I further question the assertation that these 70% are really looking for a "special genuine software relationship with Microsoft."

In conclusion, I feel that this whole program is crap and now I'm not only being watched on my phone but my computer is checking in on me, too. My solution? I guess... buy a Mac.

Anger Management

Tuesday, June 06, 2006
So I heard this news report on NPR this morning about "Intermittent Explosive Disorder". I also read a bit more about it online.

I get angry. Often times it's triggered by frustration, but I'll get irrationally angry. It's happened on the road (not usually at other people) but it happens at home, too. It's even happened when I've been thinking about a hypothetical situation. When it happens (and I can see it happening) I lose control and I'll say mean, hurtful things to those I care about. I don't want to - I never want to hurt anyone. But my words (and that's how my anger manifests itself) can be weapons.

I learned years ago to sidestep this. I learned when I could see it coming and I would try, try, TRY to remove myself from the situation. In a car it's hard because you're essentially trapped in there, but outside it should be easy. It's not always possible, though, and I know I've hurt people with words and outbursts that I couldn't control enough or stop. I always hate it. I always regret it. Am I defective?

Part of me hates the idea of a "disorder". It seems like a cop-out, like an excuse. Yet part of me is interested in the research because it seems to match what I experience. If there's something simple that could help me (and therefore help those around me) I'd like to know. I hate hurting people.

Empty

He ponders empty
a hole
barren inside
not even shadows to cast detail
the featureless walls muffle the echo
and inside this hollowness
a single droplet
on the ground
rippling from a unknown breeze
the reflection inside
as featureless as the outside
which is cold and quiet
like night-time in the desert

Movie Review: V for Vendetta

Sunday, June 04, 2006
We went to see the movie V for Vendetta over the weekend at the Kennedy School. What a fantastic film!

Step back for a moment and remember Guy Fawkes, the British revolutionary who attempted to assassinate King James by blowing up the House of Parliament. The movie is about a man who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and, 400 years later, is attempting to overthrow a neo-fascist British government. With strict pro-democracy overtones and a not-too-subtle comparison to current government figures, this movie is incredible to watch and definitely stirs conversation in its wake.

One of the most remarkable things about the movie is that the main character, "V" (played by Hugo Weaving), wears a mask the entire time - and yet the actor is able to portray an incredible amount using only words and body language. Also of note is the camerawork, the direction, the writing... well, pretty much everything about the movie was [insert synonym for fantastic here].

Final word on V for Vendetta: You must see this film, at all costs.

Magical Blogger Mood Ring

Current Mood: Black

Empty. Void. Nothing.

... and speaking of the Constitution

Saturday, June 03, 2006
I'm going to start my little post here by acknowledging that I am not (nor have I ever been) and Constitutional lawyer. My knowledge of this fine document comes mostly from high school classes and what's actually printed there; I don't know many (if any) of the Supreme Court decisions that have defined the scope of it. That said, let me continue.

So President Popular is on the road again with his constitutional amendment that would "protect marriage" by defining it as being between a man and a woman. This, of course means that homosexual couples, polygamists, and those who would marry their pet are SOL. Many believe that he's doing this to shore up the support of his "evangelical base", whose support of him may have been slipping as of late.

Let me explain why this is dumb.

I am firmly of the opinion that the Constitution serves two purposes. The first is that it defines the mechanics of our government. But the second purpose is of importance to every American every day of their life. The Constitutional amendments provide for and ensure freedom and liberty. Hence, of course, the Bill of Rights. To this day only one amendment has truly abridged the rights of the people; that was the 18th amendment (prohibition). It was later repealed, of course, with another constitutional amendmend (the 21st).

Any law like this one that gets passed is only going to get unpassed when the political winds shift again. Any law we pass that denies minority groups basic rights is not only immoral, but will cause a lot of trouble for us later. The fact that El Presidente is continuing to make noise about this proposal of his I find reek offensively of incompetence and stupidity. I hope that - should this idiotic idea get past congress - our states would wisely refuse to ratify it.

My New Toast

Friday, June 02, 2006
It amazes me, sometimes, the things that I remember that are completely useless (or don't change my life on a daily basis, at least.) For instance I remember my two favorite constitutional amendments. The 18th amendment which enacts prohibition (what were they thinking???) and the 21st amendment, which repeals it. Not to put down any other amendments (for I surely flex some of them more than I ought to) but the fact that we wasted two amendments I personally find hilarious.

So I've decided on a new toast. We drinkers need to give thanks for the 21st amendment, which protects our right to get drunk and stupid. We need to give thanks to a country that realized that, after fourteen years (or so), restricting alcohol didn't make it unavailable; it just made it dangerous. So from now on, when I raise a glass, it'll be "to the 21st!"

Magical Blogger Mood Ring

Thursday, June 01, 2006
Current mood: Drab Grey

For a lot of reasons I've been anxious, frustrated, and exhausted. I'm not sleeping well, and I'm just dragging myself around everywhere, unable to concentrate much on what's going on. Perhaps I need a vacation, perhaps I need a change, perhaps... a lot of things. We'll see.

What happened to the bad guys?

A brief article on NPR ran today about the black-market network for nuclear materials set up by a Pakistani engineer and how it's still alive today despite his house arrest.

One of the points of the news article is that, aside from A.Q. Kahn himself, there has only been one arrest in this case in the last two years. This startles me not only because nuclear proliferation was seen as the greatest threat by BOTH presidential candidates in our last election but also because in the two years that the ringleader has been under (I still can't believe this) house arrest we haven't made any progress towards arresting his co-conspirators.

And that reminded me of another unresolved case - the one in October 2001 where anthrax was being mailed around and killing people. Remember that? So do I... and yet nothing really seems to have been done about it, at least in terms of finding out who did it. Remember how they can track down cows in the investigation of mad cow disease, but apparently we can't hunt down where some anthrax came from.

So there we have it. Selling nuclear materials on the black market gets you house arrest (while playing online poker in the state of washington can land you in prison for 5 years). Mailing anthrax around will get overlooked, as long as you're discreet. I guess as long as you're not actively toting around an AK-47 you're okay, because you're more of a white-collar criminal?

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